German election: Scholz leads pack

By Ivy Lewis, Staff Writer

Sept. 26, Germans will cast their votes to select representatives for the federal Parliament, known as the Bundestag. Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leads current polls, followed closely by Armin Lashet of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and Annalena Baerbock of the Green Party.

Each voter casts two votes in the election: one for a political party, and one for a specific member of the Bundestag. Following the vote, members will form a majority coalition based on party affiliation and select the next chancellor. 

A coalition is a partnership in government of two or more parties. The chancellor tends to be selected from the party with the most votes in the election.

Although the winning party will be known on election night, the next chancellor will not be revealed until this party secures an absolute majority in the Bundestag and announces their decision. Incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel is not running in this election, marking an end to her 16-year run in office.

Scholz, who has served as vice-chancellor in Germany’s coalition government for the past four years, is a member of the SPD. His platform — considered left-wing by American standards, and center-left by European ones — has incurred favor with the public due to his radical proposals and promise for change.

The SPD platform includes promises to raise the minimum wage, reinstitute a wealth tax on higher income brackets and revamp the welfare system in Germany to better serve disadvantaged people.

Scholz has also criticized prevailing German cultural norms about merit and success, specifically the notion that white-collar professionals have more merit than their blue-collar counterparts.

“Why did Britain vote for Brexit if it was against its own interest? Why did America vote for Trump? I believe it is because people are experiencing deep social insecurities, and lack appreciation for what they do,” Scholz stated before a campaign rally in Lower Saxony.

Scholz is favored by voters who support strong German involvement with the European Union (EU). Given the powerful role played by Germany throughout Merkel’s tenure as chancellor, it is likely that the next chancellor will also serve as de facto leader of the EU.

“I believe that progress for the EU has to be Germany’s most pressing mission right now. Even more so after Great Britain sadly left,” Scholz stated.

Election polls published last week show Scholz’s party leading the CDU by 3-5 percentage points, accounting for 25% and 21% of the total vote respectively. 

The Greens, an environmentalist center-left coalition, remain third in the polls with 17% of the vote. This represents a shift from past elections, where the CDU held the highest share of votes.

The CDU is the largest party in the Bundestag, having won 26.8% of votes in the 2017 election.

Laschet was nominated as Merkel’s successor in April. Members of the CDU have cited Merkel’s popularity as chancellor and the party’s past success as reasons for selecting Laschet, in addition to the center-right policies the party has implemented throughout Merkel’s tenure. 

Baerbock, the Green Party leader, has argued that the electoral realignment in Germany will benefit more radical parties, such as the Greens.

“We need change to preserve what we love and cherish. Change requires courage, and change is on the ballot on Sept. 26,” she said.

Germans are divided on the candidates, particularly on Laschet, who is a controversial figure within the CDU.

“In this year’s German parliamentary election, none of the three major candidates is convincing in my opinion,” Charlie Scholl, a political science student at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, said. 

“The candidates of the CDU and CSU… had problems from the beginning to collect sympathy points among the population, which resulted in the Union losing its lead and plummeting in the polls. The secret winner is the candidate of the SPD, Olaf Scholz, who brought the SPD back to the top of the polls through his restrained behaviour,” she said.